Eleven seniors strong, Big Blue looks to equal its winning, 7-3 season last year.
Most Pingry students know her as their health teacher, whose calming, light-filled office—nestled beside the school nurses' office—you can visit if you need a break or want to chat. But 33 years ago, as a senior at Gettysburg College, Sue Marshall Marotto was capping off a remarkable athletic career, during which she led the Bullets to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division III Basketball Tournament (1984 and 1985), earned a program-record 20.7 points per game, and became the first female at Gettysburg to reach 1,000 points, a feat she accomplished her senior year, despite missing two games due to injury (she went on to finish her career with almost 1,500 points). That same year, she was named to the Women's Sports Federation All-American Second Team. In softball, she pitched the team to its second consecutive Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) Southwest League title with a perfect 10-0 record (1985). Her 0.89 career ERA still stands as the program's record, more than three decades later. For the 26-year Chair of Pingry's Health Department, who joined the school fresh out of Gettysburg, and who has dedicated herself ever since to the health and wellness of its students, it's an athletic resumé that defiantly belies her humility.
In recognition of that resumé, and her many achievements on the court and on the mound, Mrs. Marotto was recently named to the 2018 MAC Hall of Fame, joining 15 other inductees from 60 current and former member institutions. The honor is one of several post-collegiate distinctions she has earned, including being named to the MAC100 Women's Basketball All-Century Team (1912-88), the MAC100 Softball All-Century Team (1912-88), and Gettysburg College's Hall of Athletic Honor (1995).
An all-county and all-state pitcher and all-county basketball player at Arthur L. Johnson High School in Clark, New Jersey, Mrs. Marotto knew she wanted to continue playing both sports in college. She also wanted a strong academic experience, she says. When Gettysburg's came calling, she knew it was the right fit. In college, she majored in Health & Physical Education, and was a three-time all-conference selection in both basketball and softball, establishing numerous program records along the way. Of all the awards and honors she amassed, which one was the most meaningful? Being named "Female Athlete of the Year" by Union County her senior year at Gettysburg. "Each year, the county used to name a female athlete, and that year—1984-85—I was the recipient. That was really meaningful for me because a lot of my high school coaches and friends attended the reception. The guest speaker was Phil Rizzuto, who played for the Yankees. I got to meet and chat with him. It was a very special honor." Also special was the fact that her daughter, Jackie, attended Gettysburg (Class of 2015) and ran on their cross-country and track & field teams. "Watching my daughter compete was just as rewarding and exciting as my own accomplishments," she says.
Back to the fall of 1985, when Mrs. Marotto joined Pingry as a health and physical education teacher and, appropriately, Head Coach of both the Girls' Varsity Basketball and Softball Teams. She went on to coach the softball team for 17 years and basketball for seven. (She stopped coaching basketball when she was named Chair of the Health and Physical Education Department in 1992; the department split in two in 1996, and she continued to chair the Health Department). Squeezing in classes at night and during the summers over the course of three years, she earned a master's degree in Health & Physical Education at Montclair State in 1989.
When asked what about her athletic experiences and accomplishments she draws on as a Pingry teacher, she is thoughtful when responding. "Gettysburg has an honor code, so when I was applying for jobs, Pingry felt like a good fit from that perspective. I could really relate—and I still do—to the high expectations set for students and athletes. It's what I lived at Gettysburg, and I find Pingry students to be equally dedicated to meeting those expectations, not to mention driven and competitive. Those qualities have really impressed me as a teacher here."
She then recalls her former Gettysburg coach and mentor, Mrs. Kay Higgins—"a major figure in my life"—and gives a nod to the lessons she imparted—respect, teamwork, integrity, loyalty, and hard work—which, in turn, Mrs. Marotto has aimed to teach her own students and athletes. She often tells them the story of Senior Cut Day, early in her career at Pingry, when the seniors on the basketball team didn't show up for practice the day before a big county tournament game. What happened? She didn't let a single one of them play in the game. "Years later, an alumna came back to see me and said, 'I was one of the girls you benched that day. Thank you. I own my own business now, and it was the greatest lesson I could have learned—the value of leadership and teamwork.' To know that I had an impact on even just one athlete is so rewarding."
For much of her success at Pingry, Mrs. Marotto credits her husband, Bob, who has been a teacher and coach at Rutgers Prep for nearly 40 years. Like Mrs. Marotto, he began as a Health & Physical Education teacher, and is currently Head of their Middle School. The teacher-coach pair, who together have logged countless hours of coaching, would often trade baseball and softball strategies. "He's my biggest fan, and he has been very supportive throughout all the years I have been a teacher and coach," she says. "He understands my work, and I can't imagine not having his guidance and encouragement."
These days, in addition to serving as an assistant coach for Middle School cross-country, basketball, and track & field (she serves as the team's throwing coach), Mrs. Marotto is beginning to teach legacy students. To educate a second generation of Pingry families is an honor, she says. No doubt an honor for her students, too. After all, as a Health teacher for students in Grades 7 to 10, her lessons are life lessons. "I love teaching health education—nutrition, alcohol and substance abuse, CPR and first aid, sexual responsibility, decision-making, and stress management," she explains. With a hint of pride, she adds, "I get to teach kids skills they're going to use for the rest of their lives."